The must-see films of black filmmakers – Film Daily
We all seek to be allies of the black community as it fights for racial equality and opposes police brutality. This is harder said than done because privilege does not allow many of us to fundamentally understand the black experience. This is why black filmmakers, for years, have used their medium to give us a way to walk in their stead.
From Spike Lee to Ava DuVernay, directors have brought black stories to life on the big screen, and many have taken the opportunity to speak their truth about injustice. While these films are about the experience of black people, they are also about humans who live their lives in fear, happiness, grief and love.
Here are some essential films about the lives of blacks made by black filmmakers. Watch these movies to better understand the issues people face, but also watch these movies because they are quality stories.
Twice as nice
Not only the first black woman to direct a movie, but to direct of them feature films, Jessie Maple has paved the way for black female directors since the 1980s. It is therefore not surprising that she chose to highlight two basketball players vying for a place in the NBA.
Twins Carmen and Camilla Parker (Pamela and Paula McGee) are young college basketball stars in Columbia. But as they navigate the usual college issues, the two fight to be chosen as the NBA’s top female pick. Years before the WNBA was a thing, it’s really interesting to watch such personal moments become as exciting as it gets.
A Jordan Peele horror film reveals the more insidious nature of covert racism as a method to cripple and reprogram black people. While the plot is definitely theatrical, Get out shows a mirror of the alarming reality of race relations in the United States.
The story of Get out follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) as they visit Rose’s white middle-class family, the Armitages. Chris, a black photographer, notices strange behavior on the part of all the black people he meets in the Armitage house and later finds himself the victim of a strange twisted plot to steal his body.
Directed by Denzel Washington who also starred as Toy Maxson, Fences is a calm yet powerful story of dreams stolen because of racial barriers. The bitterness we see in Maxson as he watches a life unfold that he wanted for his own is a relatable story for anyone.
Fences is about Maxson, once a talented basketball player, who now works as a garbage collector after being kicked out of all the major leagues because of his race. Maxson’s son Lyons (Jovan Adepo) has his own chance for a career in the sport, but Maxson, due to the fear and resentment he still carries, refuses to support his son’s ambition.
This true story film directed by Spike Lee is a look at the cheeky racism in the United States stemming from modern Ku Klux Klan practice. The film serves a hard-hitting message of racial unrest alongside a generous portion of satirical wit.
BlackKkKlansman is about Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first black cop hired in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Stallworth one day infiltrates the KKK over the phone, but due to his looks, he’s forced to work with a white detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to get undercover. The film follows the detectives as they dismantle a chapter of the KKK.
If Beale Street could speak
If Beale Street could speak depicts a case of racism in the 1970s that derails the life of a black family. The film, directed by Barry Jenkins, is gentle in its delivery but nonetheless offers tremendous impact in its masterful storytelling and acting.
The story of If Beale Street could speak follows a young couple Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) as they build their lives together. However, when Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, Tish must try to clear his name while facing discrimination at every turn.
Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale station is a biographical film about the death of Oscar Grant in 2009 by a BART police officer. Fruitvale Station was highly regarded for its storytelling and message.
The film tells the story of Grant’s last day of life as the young man eagerly awaits a new year and leaves a past life of crime. Grant spends the day with his family and friends in San Francisco for New Years Eve, but faces tragedy while waiting for the BART train to return home.
Do the right thing
Another movie on the list directed by Spike Lee, Do the right thing, released in 1989, had a huge impact on movie history and is often listed as one of the greatest films of all time. The film portrays the racial tensions between black and white communities in a neighborhood.
Do the right thing is a snapshot of everyday life in a Brooklyn neighborhood where pizzeria owner Sal (Danny Aiello) operates in a predominantly black community. The pizzeria pays homage to famous Italian Americans on its wall, a point of contention for black customers, especially Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito), who see the wall as discriminatory. The argument over the wall escalates into an explosion of violence.
Boyz n the Hood
This influential film, directed by John Singleton, portrays the life of a young black man and his contact with gang life in LA. Boyz n the hood has been praised for the weight of its story as well as its brilliant acting and writing.
Boyz n the Hood talks about Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) as he goes to live with his father Furious styles (Laurence Fishburne) in South Central. Tre finds himself befriending some neighborhood kids, all of whom are involved in the gangs that run the streets. Tre learns about the difficulties of growing up in a ghetto and how difficult it can be to escape it.
This documentary directed by Ava DuVernay examines the relationship between the penal system and race in the United States. The documentary also takes a look at the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in America and argues that black people were faced with slavery under the guise of being portrayed as criminals.
13th explores the American prison system and interviews formerly incarcerated black activists, politicians, historians and black men and women to paint a picture of the criminalization of blacks in the United States.
The hate you give
This film is the heartbreaking but powerful story of a girl torn between the two worlds of a poor black community and an affluent white prep school. Director George Tillman Jr. puts the issue of police killings in the light of everyday reality.
Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives between two cultures and finds a way to come to terms with both. Then she witnesses her black friend being shot by a cop after leaving a party. Starr struggles to find her voice as she faces pressure from both sides of her life.
Queen & Slim
Queen & Slim, presented by director Melina Matsoukas, portrays an injustice in black life that quickly escalates into a life and death situation. The film acts on the frustrations and fear of a community and brings them to the attention of the world with the help of two unwitting heroes.
Queen (Jodie-Turner Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) have an awkward first date that goes from bad to worse when pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Slim is forced to shoot the policeman when the scene escalates and the couple are labeled as “cop killers.” Queen & Slim run away to find a way to shed light on the truth and find that they have become a symbol for those who face discrimination and oppression.